The Blackhawks’ organizational goaltender health issues reached a critical moment in a 3-1 loss Tuesday against the Islanders.
Starting goalie Alex Stalock was knocked out of the game and into concussion protocol just three minutes in. Islanders forward Casey Cizikas crashed into him in the crease, receiving a five-minute major and game misconduct for the dangerous play.
Hawks coach Luke Richardson said the team would know more Wednesday about Stalock’s status.
Arvid Soderblom saved 28 of 30 shots in relief, continuing his strong start to the season. The Hawks looked flat in all other areas, though, mustering only 22 shots against Islanders goalie Ilya Sorokin and beating him only once, a Jonathan Toews power-play tip-in in the third period. The defeat was the Hawks’ fourth straight, dropping their record to 4-4-2.
“It was a hard-fought game,” defenseman Caleb Jones said. “We came out a little bit flat… We’re in all these hockey games; we just have to find a way to start pulling them out.”
If Stalock misses time, which seems likely, the Hawks will need to address the situation. Soderblom is now their only healthy goalie on an NHL contract, and they have two more games coming up — Thursday against the Kings and Saturday at the Jets — before a much-needed schedule break.
Petr Mrazek participated in morning skate Tuesday and is close to returning from his groin injury, but he might not be available until next week. Prospect Jaxson Stauber is also unavailable after taking a puck to the eye during a recent Rockford game.
Dylan Wells, a minor-league journeyman with an .862 save percentage in three appearances for Rockford this season, and Mitchell Weeks, an undrafted rookie whose entire pro experience consists of four ECHL games, are the only other goalies in the organization. Neither are currently signed to NHL contracts, but that could change — or the Hawks could look elsewhere around the AHL for a goalie to poach.
The encouraging news is Mrazek said Tuesday he feels “really good” and isn’t worried about his durability.
“It wasn’t as bad as it was last year,” Mrazek said. “I was just trying to be careful with it. The great training staff helped me with everything to get back early… It’s time to move on and get ready for games.”
It was a “complete fluke,” general manager Kyle Davidson said, that the Hawks’ trades last week sent floundering prospects Nicolas Beaudin and Evan Barratt to their hometowns of Montreal and Philadelphia, respectively.
But Davidson did want Beaudin and Barratt — for their sakes — to have opportunities somewhere to progress toward the NHL. With the Hawks, it was “writing on the wall they were going to be odd men out.”
It’s another example of Davidson taking an empathetic approach to his GM duties at appropriate times.
“We’re in the people business,” he said. “Just like anyone working in the front office, those players are trying to make a career out of it, too. You do what’s best for the people in your organization. Players are not just assets, they’re people, too.
“If there’s an opportunity where we’re not sacrificing and it’s something we can do to help them out, then it’s something we’ll explore. Again, we’re not going to do something that hurts the Chicago Blackhawks, but if there’s an opportunity to find something where it’s not necessarily a loss in great value to the Blackhawks, then we’ll consider that.”